As the school year comes to an end, one graduating student has many reasons to celebrate.
Kiwi Marois, 20, is the valedictorian this year at Braemar School in southeast Edmonton. The school, part of the Edmonton public school system, is for pregnant and parenting teens ages 13 to 20.
Graduation day earlier this month landed on the first birthday of her daughter, Vitani.
"When I found out I was valedictorian, it just blew my mind," Marois told CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.
"I did try really hard in school, but I didn't really think that I'd be valedictorian because of how much I went through during that time."
Marois had an unplanned pregnancy when she was in Grade 11 and faced adversity and bullying as a result.
"I was treated a lot differently, not just by students, but also teachers," she said.
Braemar teacher Erin MacKinnon said Marois is an exceptional person.
"She set really high goals for herself and worked really hard for two years," MacKinnon said
Marois was looking at baby gear when she learned about Braemar School.
The next day, she enrolled.
She had previously struggled with learning, but said the teachers at Braemar took extra time to help her and other students.
"My grades ended up getting into honours from 35 and 50 per cent," she said.
Marois connected at school with other new mothers, and looked to them for guidance with her own pregnancy and parenting.
Listen here |
Marois became a leader within the school. She organized spirit week, garden club and a grad dinner for students.
She said she wanted to make sure other students didn't go through the same experiences she did before she found Braemar.
"Whenever I found out about another student who didn't have many friends or was new at the school, I was the first one to introduce myself and to show them around," she said.
She told them that being new in a school isn't as scary as they might think.
MacKinnon said Marois was "there for anyone, whether it was staff or other students or even a stranger. She will drop everything to lend a hand to someone.
"She's really remarkable for that."
A natural fit
Marois said her journey as a young mother hasn't been without complications.
Vitani was diagnosed with a rare chromosome disability when she was three months old.
"One of the hardest things as a new parent is being told that your child has something that you can't control or you can do nothing about," she said. "And for me, it was really hard."
Marois said her daughter's disability doesn't define her and she wants to be "the best mom for her and the best cheerleader for her."
She plans to go into nursing.
MacKinnon said that would be a natural fit.